New Water Cuts Coming in the West


In this summer of wildfires, heatwaves and droughts, some more bad environmental news came from the West this week. Federal officials declared water shortages in Lake Mead, the major reservoir on the Colorado River near Las Vegas, imposing water shortages on Arizona farmers for the next year.

Aspect I reported this weekThe famine was declared because the lake was at its lowest level since it first filled in the 1930s, the result of overuse and two decades of drought that reduced flow to the river in the southwest.

The declaration and mandatory supply cuts have long been anticipated. What is less certain is how helpful the discounts will be. Will further downtime be necessary and if so, when?

Authorities provided a response to this on Monday. “Additional action will likely be required in the very near future,” said Camille Touton, deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Corrections.

The bureau’s hydrologists predict that the lake level will continue to decline over the next two years as climate change continues to wreak havoc on the river. This means that most likely Arizona will face further declines in 2023, including some cities, and California will see its first cuts in 2024.

Numbers: The Bureau of Reclamation, an agency under the Ministry of the Interior, estimates Lake Mead will shrink to 34 percent of its capacity by the end of the year.

Henry Fountain continued “Daily” podcast To discuss what should happen in the shrinking time window, we need to avoid the most devastating climate disruptions.

Billions of dollars have been spent protecting beach properties along the state’s coastline. But inch by inch, water wins the war.

Advances in attribution science climate change is making floods, fires and heatwaves worse, Katharine Hayhoe and Friederike Otto are writing a guest article.

This summer, the Western United States experienced one of its worst wildfire seasons. Spanning more than half a million acres, the Dixie fire is the largest single-source fire in California history. Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes.

At the same time, the country has seen an increase in coronavirus cases fueled by the Delta variant.

Now, a team of Harvard scientists is making a connection between the two. Last summer, they found that wildfire smoke was associated with thousands of Covid infections and hundreds of deaths. Smoke containing high levels of the smallest, most dangerous particulate matter “significantly increased the health burden of Covid-19,” they wrote. You can do read full article here.

quotation: “I hope this provides additional evidence of why it is important that we act together to combat climate change,” said the paper’s senior author.

Hydrogen is a clean energy dream: When consumed in a fuel cell, it produces only water, electricity and heat.

But a new study examines the way hydrogen is produced today and came to a completely different conclusion. Most of the hydrogen used today is extracted from natural gas in a process that requires a lot of energy and emits a lot of carbon dioxide. Producing natural gas also releases methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas.

While the natural gas industry proposes to capture this carbon dioxide and create what it promotes as emission-free “blue” hydrogen, even this fuel continues to emit more greenhouse gases across the entire supply chain than simply burning natural gas, according to new research. .

quotation: “It’s completely wrong to call it zero-emissions fuel,” said the study’s lead author. “What we found is that it’s not even a low-emission fuel.”

Why do people continue to act in ways they know will destroy them? This question, so central to climate change, is at the heart of a new book on farming and draining the Ogallala Aquifer in the western United States, and it could potentially be catastrophic.

In his book Done: In Search of Water in the High Plains, Lucas Bessire writes that the aquifer, which stretches from South Dakota to Texas and irrigates about one-sixth of the world’s grain production, is draining much faster than rain can replenish it. , especially as the temperature and drought worsen. In the Southwest Kansas area where he grew up, an estimated three-quarters of the water is already gone.

A professor of anthropology at the University of Oklahoma, Dr. Instead of demanding extraction limits to make irrigation more sustainable, Bessire returned to her childhood home to try to understand why people are participating in the destruction of the source on which their livelihoods depend.

Some farmers don’t seem bothered by the consequences of their actions, he writes. Others say they regret the harm they have done but feel powerless to stop it. Hope plays a role: Dr. Bessire cites the idea of ​​building widening aqueducts to carry water from afar when the aquifer is depleted, and qualifies it as a dubious possibility that provides grounds to continue pumping despite this.

The book is overflowing with passages that linger after reading. One farmer compares groundwater extraction to empty mining towns in the mountains: “They got what they wanted and left when they were exhausted.” A circle of sand replaces the formerly cultivated fields, “all that’s left after the waters run out and the farmers leave the field.” Groundwater evaporated when sprayed on corn and wheat, Dr. The moisture absorbed by the clouds Bessire watches carries the future with it.

In a particularly haunting episode, he compares the depletion of groundwater to the extermination of bison on the same soil in the early 1870s. Humans killed animals so much that the value of their skins dropped and very few hunters made much money – but the slaughter continued until there were no bison left.

Dr. “Maybe we were a greedy community that wanted to take ours and fuck future generations,” Bessire says of a bison hunter’s memoirs. His point is clear: this passage could have been written just as easily today.

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